Books · Review

Review: The Electrical Venus by Julie Mayhew



Can this shocking new feeling be love, or is it electrickery?

In a lowly side-show fair in eighteenth-century England, teenager Mim is struggling to find her worth as an act. Not white, but not black enough to be truly exotic, her pet parrot who speaks four languages is a bigger draw than her. But Alex, the one-armed boxer boy, sees her differently. And she, too, feels newly interested in him.

But then Dr Fox arrives with his scientific kit for producing ‘electrickery’ – feats of electrical magic these bawdy audiences have never seen before. To complete his act, Fox chooses Mim to play the ‘Electrical Venus’. Her popularity – and the electric-shocking kisses she can provide for a penny – mean takings are up, slop is off the menu and this spark between her and Fox must surely be love.

But is this starring role her true worth, or is love worth more than a penny for an electrifying kiss?

An intoxicating and atmospheric coming of age story set in the filth and thrill of a travelling show during the height of the Georgian Enlightenment.

First off, can we just appreciate the cover? I love it, it’s what attracted to me to the book in the first place. Also, the title makes the book sound really intriguing.
Hot Key Books are amazing, I was just expecting the book and they went all out! (I especially appreciate the popping candy!)

The plot is an odd one… It’s slow, weird and interesting but not a lot is going on. The story is quite uniquely told the POV character’s chapters are them telling the story of what happens to animals, for Mim she tells the story to George, her parrot and Alex tells his story to the pigs he looks after. There are also chapters told in the third person, almost like a narrator starts telling the story, it’s odd I have never read anything set up this way before. The third person chapters give a completely new and interesting view of the story.
The setting and atmosphere of the story are probably my favourite parts of the novel, it’s set in Georgian England in a travelling sideshow. It was really interesting to read about the performances they put on and the world in general. (Can’t comment on whether it’s historically correct, however.)
The ending was faster than the rest of the book, it picked up well and it had a sweet ending. It’s really hard to explain what happens without completely giving it away, it’s probably best going in blind.

She is a young woman known as the girl-exotic as she is mixed race – this was not something I was expecting but it did really increase my interest in the story – she is half slave, half highborn but sold and grew up with the travelling show. I liked Mim, I was really interested in her character development and her story, particularly her time with Alex and later Dr Fox and seeing her turn into the titular ‘Electrical Venus’.

Alex: He’s a young boy sold to the sideshow because he only has one arm due to an accident. He had grown up with Mim in the sideshow, he’s really sweet and cares about Mim, I really liked their friendship.

Overall: It’s not quite as good as the synopsis lead me to believe, I was expecting more but I did enjoy it. I recommend it for people who like historical fiction with circus kinda vibes and romance.

Rating: 3 maybe 3.5 Stars?

The Electrical Venus is out April 19th

*Thank you to Hot Key Books for sending me a free copy of The Electrical Venus for review. This does not affect my view in any way, all opinions are my own, as always! *

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